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GNP Calls for Measures to Reduce Income Gap

Mar 10,2000
Lee Hoi-chang, president of the opposition Grand National Party (GNP), has launched an offensive against President Kim Dae-jung's economic policies. Lee focuses on the intensifying gap between the rich and the poor, claiming the current gap is the widest since 1979. He also stated that the proportion of urbanites in the nation living below the poverty line has also risen from 9 percent to 19 percent during the past year, he said.
At a rally held by four district party chapters in South Kyongsang province Thursday, Lee said, "The government boasts of having overcome economic difficulties, but the actual result is a widening gap between the haves and have-nots."
The ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) and its former coalition partner, the United Liberal Democrats (ULD), immediately refuted the charges, stating that the GNP is the real culprit of the widening gap in wealth.
MDP spokesman Chung Dong-young said, "The distribution structure of wealth can aggravate any country experiencing a financial crisis. It is also the legacy of the previous administration." He also called for Lee Hoi-chang's apology for opposing the government's plans to spend ₩1.7 trillion in surplus tax revenues to help the poor.
The acrimonious dispute continued all day. Lee Han-koo, the chief policymaker of the GNP's campaign team, declared the real cause for the widening income gap lies in the "rising number of jobless, the current government's coercive measures for restructuring, and the nation's high interest rates." He also explained that the GNP had opposed using surplus tax revenues for the poor because it did not trust the government to implement careful preparatory measures.
The ULD's chief campaign strategist, Chung Woo-taek, also denounced the GNP's criticism, stating that belt-tightening measures were necessary to overcome the foreign exchange crisis, making the gap between the rich and the poor inevitable.
Meanwhile, the GNP came up with a plan for rehabilitating the middle-class based on statistical research of the unemployed and the poor. The ruling MDP vowed that it will implement its own measures to address the issue, and said the gap in wealth between the rich and the poor is rapidly narrowing.




by Choi Sang-yon




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